Anyone who likes looking at cars on the internets may have recently seen a teaser ad depicting the number 230 with a smiling electric plug outlet as the “0,” set against a friendly green background. Underneath were the numbers 8-11, and nothing more. As it turns out, the daylong technical briefing GM scheduled for the media Aug. 11 and the rumored triple digit fuel-economy of the soon to be released plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt were all part of the scheme.
During the press conference on the 11th, GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced that the upcoming Volt is expected to receive a government in-city fuel-economy rating of “at least 230 miles per gallon.” Brilliant!
But hold the phone, skeptics are wondering just how accurate EPA testing will really be for the Volt which runs solely on electric power for up to 40 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in, not to power the car, but to power a generator that continues to run the electric motor. Consider the current EPA city/highway efficiency test procedures:
TEST MILES DRIVEN & MPH AVERAGE
-City: 11.04 miles at a 21.2 mph average.
-Highway: 10.26 miles at 48.3 mph average. (2)
That’s a total of 21.3 miles, but the Volt can run on battery power alone for up to 40 miles. So, how far can the Volt travel on a single gallon of gas after battery power is depleted at the 40-mile mark? The real question then becomes how to fairly test that sort of thing in a way that’s comparable to gas powered and non plug-in vehicles. From Auto news:
“Henderson said the Environmental Protection Agency is developing a rating methodology for plug-in hybrids such as the Volt…”Under those tentative rules, the Volt will be the first mass-produced car with a triple-digit fuel economy rating, he said.” (1)
Even with the new testing regulations pending, Henderson still seems confident the Volt will rack up unprecedented efficiency numbers. Here’s what the EPA had to say on the topic - From Automotive News:
“In a statement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today it has not yet tested a Volt and ‘therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.’”
“But the agency said it ‘does applaud GM's commitment to designing and building the car of the future - an American made car that will save families money, significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying American jobs.’” (1)
The new standards for testing the Volt and other cars like it are due to be published later this year. Despite the outcome, the Volt’s 40-mile battery life alone could potentially be a game-changing figure for daily drivers.
Henderson said most commuters travel less than 40 miles round trip to work meaning most Volt drivers would “not need to use a single drop of gasoline” if they charge the car overnight. He also pointed out that using Detroit-area off-peak electric rates of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, the cost of that 40-mile charge would be only 40 cents. (1)
Pilot production of the Volt began in June and GM now has 30 pre-production versions in testing at proving grounds. Henderson affirmed criticisms that the first generation release would be expensive but said that engineers are working to make the car more affordable for the second-generation model.
“The Volt is becoming very real, very fast,” he said. (1)